‘Smart motorways must go’: Clamour grows for Grant Shapps to scrap death trap roads after damning Commons report
Politicians, families of victims who died on the roads and the general public all joined in the clamour.
A Tory MP said motorists would ‘not understand the reluctance’ to intervene while a grieving relative called on the Transport Secretary to have ‘a conscience’.
It came as a poll found less than a quarter of adults feel safe travelling on motorways with the hard shoulder permanently removed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (nella foto) was last night urged to halt the rollout of smart motorways by politicians, families of victims who died on the roads and the general public
Mr Shapps was effectively in hiding over the issue yesterday, with the Department for Transport declining to issue any new statements and his advisers not returning calls.
Following Monday’s report – from the Commons transport committee – his ministry issued a statement admitting that safety measures on smart motorways ‘have not always been made as quickly as they could have been’.
But it indicated it would not scrap the roads and would instead ‘focus on upgrading their safety’ – a promise MPs on the committee said had been broken repeatedly.
Their report singled out Mr Shapps for criticism, saying an action plan he ordered to improve safety last year did ‘not fully address the risks associated with the removal of the hard shoulder’.
It called for the rollout of all-lane running motorways to be halted until more data was available to show they were safe.
The MPs accused road chiefs and ministers of ignoring ‘major’ safety concerns and said the delayed installation of stopped vehicle detection systems ‘almost certainly’ contributed to deaths.
Karl McCartney, a Tory MP who sits on the transport committee, disse: ‘There have now been two select committee reports that cite major and insurmountable safety concerns with smart motorways that those at the DfT and National Highways will continue to ignore at their peril.
‘The great British public, and the motorway drivers among them, will not understand the reluctance of positive action to reinstate hard shoulders across our nation’s entire smart or all-lane running motorways, and need a full explanation, not fudge and evasion.
The clamour came as a poll found less than a quarter of adults feel safe travelling on motorways with the hard shoulder permanently removed
Following Monday’s report from the Commons transport committee Mr Shapp’s ministry issued a statement admitting that safety measures on smart motorways ‘have not always been made as quickly as they could have been’
‘The minister should sit down and be sensible and explain to his officials why they are wrong and why those who have real world experience know that only by curtailing the imposition of unproven and plainly dangerous smart motorways and reintroducing hard shoulders where they are needed, or have been removed, will confidence be restored.’
Jim McMahon, Labour’s transport spokesman, disse: ‘The Transport Secretary appears to be entirely unwilling to pay attention to the barrage of evidence in front of him, or listen to families who have lost loved ones.
‘The reality is he could take action right now to pause the rollout of smart motorways and sort out the countless safety issues we all know exist – but is instead choosing to do nothing and carry on regardless, putting more lives at risk.’
Figures in the report show ‘controlled’ M-ways, where the hard shoulder is retained, have death rates half those of all-lane running ones.
A Daily Mail audit of more than 800 CCTV cameras on ALR motorways on the National Highways system on September 17 revealed that more than one in ten was either broken, misted or pointing the wrong way
Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed on a stretch of smart motorway on the M1 in 2019, pleaded with Mr Shapps: ‘He’s got to protect the public by putting a stop to smart motorways now.’
The son of a woman who was killed on a smart motorway also asked Mr Shapps to act. Niaz Shazad’s mother, 62-year-old Nargis Begum, was killed when her car lost power on a section of the M1 near Sheffield, also with no hard shoulder.
He said that he hoped ministers would finally listen to the ‘voices of the people whose lives have been turned upside down because of these roads’.
Ha aggiunto: ‘To find someone in the Department for Transport with a conscience is almost impossible, but we’re hoping we might get through to them.’
A poll conducted by the Major Trauma Group, a group of leading law firms which provide advice to trauma victims and their families, found only 24 per cent of adults feel safe travelling on motorways without a hard shoulder.
Right to call for halt, says ex-traffic officer
A former traffic officer who attended the ‘horrendous’ smart motorway crash that killed Jason Mercer says halting the rollout of the roads is ‘the right call.’
The whistleblower, who left National Highways because of safety fears, disse: ‘We always knew something was going to go wrong.
If they’d got the correct measures in place and didn’t cost cut, it could have possibly worked, but if you haven’t got the tools for the job…
Ha aggiunto: ‘I’ve got friends still working out there and I think about them every day.’
Jason mercer, nella foto, was killed on the a stretch of a smart motorway on the M1 in June two years ago
He said he welcomed the decision of MPs to call for the smart M-way programme to be halted.
He said he still relived the aftermath of Mr Mercer’s death on the M1 near Sheffield in 2019.
The 44-year-old, nella foto, e Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, were killed instantly after an HGV ploughed into them on what had been the hard shoulder.
The pair were involved in a shunt and had pulled over to exchange details.
‘It never should have happened,' Egli ha detto. ‘It was horrendous. The bodies themselves – the impact of the cars getting hit, I don’t even want to describe it.
I just thought, “That shouldn’t have happened. Nobody should’ve been there. It would’ve been avoided if there was a hard shoulder”.’
Analysis: How the wheels fall off those ‘safety’ reclami
By Susie Coen, Assistant Investigations Editor
From the moment the smart-motorway experiment was launched, experts raised doubts about their safety.
Yet despite at least 53 deaths between 2015-2019, ministers and road bosses have continued to claim they are safe.
All'inizio di quest'anno, as part of a Daily Mail investigation, I worked undercover in National Highways’ busiest control centre in Hertfordshire for six weeks, and saw at first hand the serious human and technological failings that beset this scheme.
Adesso, as MPs call for a halt to the building of more smart motorways, here’s why ministers’ safety claims just don’t add up…
RICHIESTA 1: CASUALTIES ARE LESS LIKELY
Nel mese di settembre, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted: ‘Fatal casualties are less likely on all-lane running motorways [in which the hard shoulder has been permanently converted into a traffic lane] than on conventional ones.’
Other ministers and National Highways bosses have also trotted out this line to defend the controversial roads, but it relies on highly selective data.
It is true that between 2015 e 2019, conventional motorways had higher death rates per hundred million vehicle miles travelled compared to ‘all-lane running’ (ALR) motorways.
Nel 2015, però, there were only 29 miles of smart motorways in England (58 if you include both sides of the dual carriageway) e in 2019, this had expanded to 141 (o 282 if you count both sides of the motorway).
E, in modo cruciale, the more the smart motorway experiment was expanded, the more the dangers appeared to mount. Nel 2018, the ‘live lane fatality rate’ was more than a third higher on ALR motorways than on conventional ones, while in 2019 the rate was eight per cent higher.
There were also higher rates of serious injuries over the four years on smart motorways.
RICHIESTA 2: LANES CLOSED WITHIN MINUTES
Roads Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton told MPs in June that control-room operators can close lanes within ‘minutes’ after a breakdown to protect drivers.
‘They will set the signs and they will be able to set the pan, tilt and zoom camera on to your car,’ she insisted.
But our undercover probe revealed the software used to do so is beset with failures.
I witnessed the technology crash several times, leaving helpless National Highways staff unable to set vital signals that can save drivers’ and passengers’ lives.
During one outage, which lasted more than 30 minuti, an operator commented: ‘We’ve got no signals, you’re all going to die … whichever God you believe in, start praying now.’
Lo scorso mese, National Highways confirmed that two-thirds of vital signs used to warn drivers of lane closures and accidents had been broken on a stretch of smart motorway with no hard shoulder.
A string of National Highways whistleblowers have come forward since our investigation claiming that even the newest software being rolled out by the company regularly crashes and must be rebooted, leaving large areas without signals for hours at a time.
RICHIESTA 3: FULL CCTV COVERAGE
Nick Harris, CEO of National Highways, claimed in June 2021 that smart motorways ‘actually have more than 100 per cento [CCTV] coverage’.
But a Daily Mail audit of more than 800 CCTV cameras on ALR motorways on the National Highways system on September 17 revealed that more than one in ten was either broken, misted or pointing the wrong way.
This was the case for almost 50 per cent of the cameras on one smart-motorway section of the M25.
Internal emails seen by the Mail also exposed bosses admitting that CCTV ‘blackspots’ existed on the M25.
In just one of six control rooms, staff reported almost two CCTV and technological failures per day – preventing them from setting lane closures and finding broken-down cars.
RICHIESTA 4: WORKING TECHNOLOGY
Former National Highways CEO Jim O’Sullivan told the transport select committee that the Stopped Vehicle Detection (SVD) that recognises when vehicles have broken down on the motorway uses ‘ground-breaking technology’.
He added that trials on the M25 ‘proved that it works’.
Mr O’Sullivan, who said National Highways had been ‘perfecting the design of smart motorways for ten or 15 anni', aggiunto: ‘Getting it right and making sure it works…is very important to us.’
But the expensive radar system that should alert the smart-motorway control room to breakdowns within 20 seconds has given a host of false warnings – while risking fatal accidents by missing stranded cars.
Staff say the system – due to be expanded along the entire smart motorway network at a cost of £122million – is impossible to rely on.
It currently ‘protects’ 24 miles on the M25 around London and 13 miles on the M23 in Surrey.
Staff view alerts from the system, which makes a ‘groaning’ sound when it is triggered, as ‘low priority’ because it goes off so often. Slow-moving traffic and even road signs set it off.